Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Not so hot

Not so hot

I can’t go through 2 years and pretend that everything’s wonderful and that I don’t ever think about quitting and just going home. There are times when I feel incredibly underutilized by my organization, that they just keep me around to type documents because I can type fast or to fix their computers because they don’t know how to. I really feel this way when I work hard to create or develop something only to find it tossed aside once my back is turned. “Why am I here?” “Can’t I be doing more and be more appreciated somewhere back home?” “I know I could be making more money.” Of course the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. One volunteer had a rule that if he woke up 3 mornings in a row with intense feelings that he wanted to go home then he would. It never happened but that was his sounding board. I felt like going home all last week. Without a doubt all PCVs think about it. There’s no punishment for leaving. It’s not a dishonorable discharge or anything. In fact, if you’re not happy you’re better off going home, and so is the community that you are serving. You’re not going to do much good if you’re unhappy all of the time. The fact is we all have bad days. It’s when several bad days are strung together that it begins to gnaw away at you. It’s tough to fight depression when so many of our usual coping mechanisms aren’t readily available. I can’t pick up a phone and call another volunteer because the phones here charge per second and it adds up very quickly. I can’t escape to see a movie. I can’t treat myself to a nice meal or ice cream. I can’t buy some expensive new toy. It’s even difficult to talk to a Ugandan to garner sympathy. I think of how my problems pale in comparison to earning less than a dollar a day like so many people around here. How they would love to have my problems for a while. I think about the months leading up to joining the Peace Corps when I would have done anything just to be here, out of my dead end job making a difference in the world. I do run every day and that helps, but even my runs are filled with people shouting ‘Muzungu’, uneven dirt roads which cause sprained ankles and vehicles that speed along narrowly missing me. The trick for me is to keep myself busy, focus on what’s important (other’s needs instead of my own, God and my faith) and to realize that this is a temporary home. When I get back this will all seem like a distant dream and there will be times when I wished I was back here in the warm sunshine, rolling green hills and have the ability to leave work just about any time I want to just get a way for a while.


I spent the weekend in Kampala with all of the other PCVs. We had an All PCV conference, so it was the first chance to meet the newest PCVs. There are 48 of them. They are where we were a year ago. They’re trying to feel their way along right now, trying to find work to do within their organizations and struggling to pick up the language.

I took my 3 kittens to the conference to give away. It was quite an adventure riding 6 hours on a bus with a small box of kittens who were desperately trying to get out the entire time. They destroyed the box they were in from the inside. Jacob and I traveled together and every time the kittens meowed he would cough to try to cover it up. Not that it mattered, those busses have chickens, ducks and goats on them from time to time. Three guys sleeping in a hotel room with 3 kittens and no mother cat proved to be quite difficult however. It was their first night away and they cried all night until at 2:30 Jacob crawled out of his bed and scooped one up and brought it back to bed with him. The kitten stopped crying but the other 2 were now reaching new decibels of crying. So I grabbed them and put them in bed with me. Some time later the one with Jacob must have left his bed to join his siblings because when I next checked I had all 3 kittens. So they slept with me from 2:30 until 6:30 when it was time for my run. They didn’t cry but I slept so lightly that it was almost like not sleeping. The next night I had to repeat the ordeal, otherwise the kittens would have kept the entire hall from sleeping. We’re not talking about a hotel with nice soundproof doors. Concrete floors are very conducive to carrying sound. Fortunately it’s also conducive to cleaning up after kittens… We also asked the housekeeper not to turn our beds in an attempt to keep the kittens under raps. Quite frankly I don’t think they cared.

Herbie the Dentist

Does anybody remember the clay-mation Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer movie where Rudy’s friend the little blonde elf named Herbie wants to be a dentist rather than make toys? OK, well that’s my lead in to visiting the dentist on Monday. People may wonder what medical and dental services are available for PCVs. I’ve had only good experiences with both though my cleaning last month was a little rough. I had a temporary crown in and got it replaced with a permanent crown. The procedure was rather simple. I wasn’t there very long and it wasn’t a very complicated or painful procedure. The tooth had to be molded in South Africa, so I had the temp for about 3 weeks with no problems.


At 06 July, 2007, Anonymous A friend said...


Hey, I'm sorry it has been so rough there lately. You are doing a good work there. What are your goals for the next year?

At 20 May, 2008, Blogger cma said...

Hey, Having been born and brought up in Uganda I can relate to what you are going through. I am currently away doing my Masters in the Uk, but my family is very hospitable, if you need friends and an occasional break, let me know and I could introduce you to some people. Cheers.


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